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Arts & Entertainment

Frick program looks at the 'Ladies of the House'

| Friday, March 4, 2011

Back in the Victorian era, female friends didn't spontaneously contact each other and say, "Hey, girlfriend -- let's hang out!"

The society was so formal that friends of Adelaide Frick made appointments to see the wealthy Pittsburgh woman at her home. When they arrived at the Clayton mansion in Point Breeze, they checked in with the butler by signing a visitor log and giving him their paper calling cards -- similar to today's business cards, but with only the woman's name printed. Then, the butler would go upstairs to get Mrs. Frick, and she would come join her friend for tea in the parlor.

"Home-to-home visiting was just how you interacted with friends," says Laura Beattie, the Frick's assistant curator of education. "We're so used to picking up the phone, or, now, texting."

The Frick Art & Historical Center in Point Breeze is offering a new Clayton tour, "All the Ladies of the House," which gives visitors a feel for the roles of women who lived at Clayton -- including Mrs. Frick's governess and a staff of maids -- and of women in general during the late 19th century, and the turn of the 20th. Visitors on the approximately one-hour tour will hear stories about Mrs. Frick and her role in her family and community, along with stories about the female servants who lived at Clayton.

On the tour, visitors can see items like a washing set for the laundresses and laminated calling cards. They also can see Mrs. Frick's wedding cape, other clothes and jewelry, her school notebooks and books such as "The Five Talents of Woman," and "About Women: What Men Have Said." Imagine such book titles today, compared to the time when keeping a clean house and running an efficient, comfortable home for her family were among a woman's highest duties.

"This tour is to shine a little (light) on roles of women in the house," Beattie says.

"All the Ladies of the House" coincides with Women's History Month in March. People who take the tour will learn about the personalities and lifestyles of the Clayton women, including Adelaide Frick and her daughter, Helen Clay Frick; governess Marika Ogiz; lady's maid Pauline Turon; laundress Marie Johnston; and maids Mollie Hett, Bridget Conroy and Mary Coyne. The staff of servants helped Mrs. Frick with her elaborate wardrobe, taught Helen in the upstairs schoolroom, set and cleared tables and performed other duties.

Visitors also will hear about "Aunt Attie" -- Mrs. Frick's sister, Martha -- and Annie Blumenschein Stephany, a neighbor and companion to the Frick children.

Additional Information:

Special Tour of Clayton: 'All the Ladies of the House'

When: Tuesdays-Sundays, through May 1. Times vary. Reservations strongly recommended; group tours available

Admission: $12; $10 for senior citizens, students and military members

Where: Frick Art & Historical Center, 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze

Details: 412-371-0600 or website

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